It may not be the case, but if the perception is otherwise, then Kontra-Musik is at least partly responsible. From the label's first records with Agaric in 2006, Kontra has intrigued by quietly recalibrating its coordinates every handful of releases. Its minimalist origins bled into raw, purposeful techno, then flipped towards deep Detroit tones when not unearthing Moondog-inspired house, while Scuba, Shed and Jus-Ed queued up to remix the label's original material. Kontra-Musik's subtle disjoint has been a slow-dawning revelation for its admirers, none more so than Henrik 'Gunnar' Jonsson, the Swedish producer who entered the fold himself last year.
"Here and there we would see the logo,'" he says, of his years moving within Gothenburg's underground circles. "We started to check out the stuff Ulf put out, and could always see there was a kind of 'anti' thing going on, that kept you intrigued. It was always in the back of my mind to keep an eye on, it's hard to explain why. But he doesn't really see what he puts out there, how it effects people outside of Sweden, you know?" Jonsson's studio partner, Joel Alter, concurs. "We live in Berlin, and Ulf is in Malmö," he says. "We keep telling him, 'you don't know what you're doing, but people are taking notice.' We feel a lot of trust in his label, because he doesn't see the kind of watermark that he's [leaving]."
Dettmann was approached again, to contribute to the Time Axis Manipulation remix project, but he opted instead for a standalone release, the Kontra-Mokira-Mixes 12-inch, which worked with parts and samples from the Swede's extensive discography for two entirely new productions. "You work a lot," says Eriksson, of the sense of focus that has pervaded his label over 2011, "you don't make any money, and in the end it's just nicer to do things with people you know. If you work with friends, it gives it more meaning. Now I am more in control."
It's taken a decade to get here. Kontra-Musik was formed as an idea as far back 2001, but Eriksson lacked the resources to press the kind of records that he sought out as a DJ: tracks that spoke more to musicianship, than just admirable production skills. He had lived in London for a short time in his early 20s—"like all the kids did back then"—and had immersed himself in the British rave community, just as he'd already done in the warehouse scene that was scattered around the outskirts of Malmö. He began to recognise the potential for a mid-ground between the commercially-inclined clubs of the city and the far-flung raves; he also hoped that in bringing underground electronic music to legal spaces within city limits that he could also fund a label.
The first Kontra-Musik party, headlined by Sonja Moonear, was a success, but unsurprisingly not the cash injection that he hoped for. It was hardly a loss, though: that first event at the Inkonst cultural centre established the venue as home base for all subsequent editions of the party, with Tikiman, Scion, Modeselektor and Thomas Fehlmann brought in for early editions. It also indirectly provided Eriksson with the cashflow to eventually start the label, when the impressed owners of the venue offered him a full-time job.
Based on the positive feedback he received for Kontra-Musik's debut releases—Agaric's Surfacing and The World Is Asleep—Eriksson sought out other acts, establishing a kind of pick-up, put-down, move-on pattern that added One, Mikael Stavöstrand and Scaff & Apparatus to the discography. Casting the net wider, Eriksson came upon Detroit dub techno enthusiast Luke Hess, resulting in his deep sea EP Believe & Receive. From there it was just one degree of MySpace separation to Jason Fine, Hess' fellow Omar-S/FXHE Records protege, who had just a single release to his name. It was Fine's brooding "Workin' It Out"—which opened Eriksson's recent mix for mnml ssgs—that prompted the label head to make contact.
"It was really pretty simple," explains Fine via email. "Omar S is pretty picky with what he'll release on FXHE. I was just interested in getting more music out." Eriksson floated the idea of a Kontra-Musik release, and Fine sent him twelve tracks, in "the hopes he'd like a few of them." Eriksson liked all of them. Those twelve songs became the debut album of both the artist and the label, Our Music Is a Secret Order. The relationship between the two continues as it began—"minimal at best and strictly business," says Fine—but each expresses admiration for the other, and for project that helped to move both of them forward considerably. For Eriksson, Fine's deep classicist minimalism was "reaching towards where I wanted to be... the sound I wanted when I started the label." With his follow-up releases, the sophomore album Future Thought, and the sublime EP Colors, Fine has continued to hone his production sensibility, secure that his work is in the right hands. "I trust Ulf's judgment," he says. "When I found out he got Gerald Donald to remix one of them I was pretty much starstruck. Drexciya has and always will be one of the major driving forces in my musical inspiration."
pretty much a coincidence."
In the last year, Eriksson has taken on help with the label, with press and digital distribution, and he appears to be taking on more DJ gigs of his own outside of Malmö, and outside of Sweden. He also almost seems ready to reveal a bit of pride in what he has slowly, steadily and sometimes accidentally created. "It has always been pretty much a coincidence I must say," he explains. "Now it isn't anymore." He's particularly pleased about the album projects that have dominated this half of the year. He and the Stockholm-based Tilliander had spoken previously about working together, and after the Kondens 12-inch, Tilliander sent him the heady and enveloping Time Axis Manipulation as a single unbroken mix. "I listened to it maybe just once and I mailed him back and said, 'I want to release this,'" he says.
Of the Jonsson/Alter record he is similarly assured, speaking of Mod's "tone or vibe of something that is really new, or personal, or human. Which I like: when club music feels human." Then there's the forthcoming Mod 12-inch release, which will draw on the remixing talents of Donato Dozzy and Eriksson's longtime hometown friends, Minilogue. "I respect them very much as musicians and friends," he explains, "they have respected what I am doing with the club scene in Malmö, and also with the label. They have always been doing this at a professional level, and I've been doing it on a hobby level. But now we do it. Yes. I think right now it is the right time."
Download: RA Label of the Month 1110 Mix: Kontra-Musik
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Filesize: 124.7 MB
01. Bohren & Der Club of Gore - Schnäbeln [PIAS]
02. Jonsson/Alter - Orgelpunkten [Kontra-Musik]
03. Kondens - Valvet (Substance Remix) [Kontra-Musik]
04. Monolake - Plumbicon (Rebreather Mix) [Monolake / Imbalance Computer Music]
05. Silent Servant - El Mar (Svreva Remix One) [Semantica Records]
06. ONE - Sexmachine [Kontra-Musik]
07. End Of All Existence - Nowhere To Run [End Of All Existence]
08. Marcel Dettmann - Factory Report 2 [Kontra-Musik]
09. Mokira - Time Axis [Kontra-Musik]
10. Jonsson/Alter - Jätten [Kontra-Musik]
11. Jason Fine - Hihat Visitation [Kontra-Musik]